Oil Company Asks Judge to Keep Protesters Away

     (CN) — An energy company building a pipeline from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to a transfer station in Illinois wants a federal judge to stop protesters from interfering with the pipeline’s construction in two Iowa counties.
     Dakota Access says in its Monday lawsuit that it received emails from defendants Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Bold Iowa on Aug. 25 and 26 in which both groups threatened to commit acts of “civil disobedience” on Wednesday.
     The emails said hundreds of activists were planning to protest at undisclosed locations in Boone and Story Counties in Iowa, along the pipeline’s route, according to the complaint.
     “The construction of the pipeline involves the operation of dangerous heavy equipment,” the lawsuit states. “The planned acts of civil disobedience represent a risk to the physical safety of Dakota Access employees and representatives, and the protesters.”
     The Dakota Access Pipeline, which began construction in Iowa in June, will run a 1,172-mile route from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to a transfer station in Illinois, crossing South Dakota and Iowa on the way.
     Although Dakota Access has obtained easements for the pipeline from property owners, as well as the necessary permits from state authorities and the federal government, many members of the public in the affected states are not on board.
     Earlier this month, construction equipment for the pipeline was burned or vandalized near the Iowa cities of Newton, Reasnor and Oskaloosa, in what authorities believe were acts of arson, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
     Dakota Access says these acts resulted in $3 million worth of damage.
     Ed Fallon, director of Bold Iowa, refuted the connection between the acts of vandalism and Wednesday’s planned protest, which organizers claim will be peaceful and nonviolent.
     “For Dakota Access to imply that I was involved with arson is borderline libelous,” Fallon said in a statement. “My life-long commitment to nonviolence and the ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi are well-known in Iowa. I’m not going to be bullied by a big corporation that has forced this pipeline on landowners who just want to farm and enjoy their land and property.”
     On its Facebook page, Bold Iowa describes itself as “part of a network to protect rural Americans’ land, water, air and property rights from fossil-fuel giants and the abuse of eminent domain.”
     Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a grassroots nonprofit that pledges to put “people before politics, people before profits [and] people before polluters,” according to its website.
     The group also says it campaigns against factory farms, “predatory” payday lending and water pollution, among other causes.
     Both Iowa activist groups ask visitors to their websites to sign the Bakken Pipeline Pledge of Resistance, which reads: “I pledge, if necessary, to join others somewhere along the route of the Bakken Pipeline to engage in acts of dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could result in my arrest in order to send the message to stop construction of the pipeline.” (Emphasis in original.)
     Dakota Access fears the protests will lead both to monetary damages for the company, claiming each day of delay could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the expiration of its permits.
     Pushing the timeline back too far could also result in the project’s anticipated fall 2016 completion date being delayed until spring 2017, “increasing the likelihood of impacts to a second growing season in Iowa,” according to the complaint.
     In addition, the energy company faces setbacks on the North Dakota portion of the pipeline from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s opposition to the project. The tribe established a “spirit camp” along the pipeline’s route in south central North Dakota months ago, which has drawn more than 1,000 protesters on some days.
     Federal lawsuits filed by both sides related to the tribe’s occupation of the pipeline’s route are pending in the District of Columbia and North Dakota.
     In the Iowa case, Dakota Access is represented by Samuel Jones of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll in Des Moines.
     He was out of the office Tuesday and could not be reached by phone or email for comment.

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